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July Fourth celebration in DC includes reminders of violence

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POSTED July 4, 2017 9:50 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The festive, star-spangled crowd that gathered for the annual July Fourth concert and fireworks on the National Mall couldn’t avoid being reminded of the ugly reality of life in Washington in 2017.

Concertgoers on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol were greeted Tuesday evening by heavy security, including police officers with semi-automatic rifles around their necks and roads blocked with concrete barriers, military vehicles and construction equipment.

Host John Stamos took time during the “Capitol Fourth” concert to honor one police officer in particular: Special Agent David Bailey of the U.S. Capitol Police, who was wounded while protecting Republican members of Congress during a shooting at a baseball practice last month. Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the House majority whip, is rehabilitating from the life-threatening wound he received in that shooting, which the FBI said was carried out by a gunman with anger toward the GOP.

Bailey looked hale as he waved to the crowd, wearing a blazer and a button-down shirt. Stamos also sent his best wishes to the other wounded officer, Crystal Griner, who is still recuperating and did not attend.

The concert featured performances by the Beach Boys — with Stamos on drums and Sugar Ray singer Mark McGrath helping out original Beach Boy Mike Love on vocals — the Four Tops and the Blues Brothers. After the show, the fireworks display on the National Mall went off as planned amid cloudy skies and mild, breezy weather. Last year in Washington, the cloud cover was so low that most of the fireworks couldn’t be seen, and PBS was criticized for splicing in footage of pyrotechnics from previous years.

Stamos said he was honored to host the show as the descendant of Greek immigrants who came to the U.S. to pursue the American dream. His grandfather, he said, shortened the family name to Stamos upon arriving at Ellis Island, “a new name for his new life in the new land that was now his home.”

The Beach Boys and the Four Tops got the crowd dancing with American favorites like “Surfin’ USA” and “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch.” But the biggest cheers went to two droids who fought for independence in a galaxy far, far, away: C-3PO and R2-D2, who introduced the National Symphony Orchestra’s performance of music from “Star Wars” to honor the 40th anniversary of the sci-fi classic.

With members of Congress from both parties in attendance, politics were mostly absent from the show, although the mention of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s name drew boos, and a few “Make America Great Again” hats and T-shirts honoring President Donald Trump were sprinkled through the crowd.

Kelly Wilburn, 31, who relocated from North Carolina to the Washington area to take a job as a legal administrative assistant and sported an American flag-themed ribbon in her hair, was thrilled to be celebrating America’s birthday, which also happens to be her own, in the capital.

“I’m very indulged in the red, white and blue,” she said.

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Follow Ben Nuckols on Twitter at https://twitter.com/APBenNuckols


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